DUP MP for Upper Bann Carla Lockhart has challenged the Secretary of State, Rt. Hon. Brandon Lewis MP, on the legal basis of his decision to take power over the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland. The MP secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons today to examine the Secretary of State's decision to undermine devolution.
Carla Lockhart said:
“The Secretary of State should confirm that paragraph 85 and 86 of the CEDAW Report are not legally binding on the United Kingdom and do not constitute international obligations as confirmed in the explanatory notes of the 2021 Regs therefore undermining the whole premises for forcing a change in NI’s Abortion law in 2019.
The Secretary of State should also accept that according to the devolution settlement established by the Belfast Agreement, access to abortion services is a devolved issue and this action represents a breach of the Belfast Agreement.
Furthermore, the Secretary of State should confirm that his sole legal basis for intervention in this area is section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 and during the passage of that bill - which was opposed by every Northern Ireland MP who took their seats - it was made clear that the only reason Parliament was interfering in this issue was because there was no sitting Assembly at that time.
The Secretary of State should explain why he has chosen to expand his powers relating to abortion under section 9 of that Act but has failed to act on his duties in relation to the Executive’s failure to introduce payments for victims under section 10 of the same Act.
I know that the Secretary of State shares my support for the Union but he should understand that at the heart of the devolution settlement must be a respect for those areas which have been determined to be for the devolved authorities.
There is still time for the Secretary of State to think again before he takes actions which will undermine and further destabilise the devolved institutions.
It is time for the Government to recognise the errors of their way and repeal section 9 and restore NI’s life affirming laws.”
Speaking after the proceedings in the House, Carla Lockhart added:
“The failure of the Secretary of State to address the issues I raised around his obligations, the legal position around his move, and the devolution settlement in his response was quite telling. Instead the Secretary of State championed abortion. Not once did he mention the baby whose life will be lost because of his actions.
I think most people will have watched proceedings in the House and came away believing that the power grab on abortion is not down to legal obligations, but rather the Secretary of State is using his position to progress his own personal views on abortion. That is utterly despicable.
A Secretary of State who does this shows absolutely no respect for devolution. And I think by continuing this pathway, he will be culpable in undermining and ostracising public support for Stormont. The consequences of that are on him.”